AJAM Presents: The System SUNDAYS @ 9p ET/6p PT


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“The System with Joe Berlinger”

Al Jazeera America Presents, a new original series from Academy Award nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger exploring controversial cases within the criminal justice system. He’ll examine the underbelly and dark corners of the American justice system to investigate troubling cases embodying this all too human drama. Amidst the murky world where alleged miscarriages have taken place he’ll dig for the truth and ask the question, was justice served?

Raising riveting questions about innocence and guilt, there will often be surprises: sometimes the person crying foul is himself lying; sometimes the disgruntled cop is discredited, but then vindicated; and sometimes the system has worked, and justice served. Focusing on any number of layers within the criminal justice system, each episode of the series will explore a controversial case – carried out by or impacting prosecutors, citizens, police officers, and businesses, among others. As we examine each story, we’ll see whether the vaunted system of US justice has triumphed or failed.

Episode 1: False Confessions
Premieres Sunday May 18th at 9E/6P
Check the schedule for local times and repeat airings

Las Vegas detectives find a homeless man stabbed to death and a teenage girl confesses to the salacious crime. In NY, a high school girl is brutally raped and murdered and one of her classmates confesses. But what if both suspects are innocent? Who would confess to a crime that they didn’t commit? In this episode we’ll look at two cases where convictions were reached almost entirely on the suspect’s confession and explore whether the system got it right.

Episode 2: Mandatory Sentencing
Premieres Sunday May 25th at 9E/6P
Check the schedule for local times and repeat airings

In this episode, Joe Berlinger explores the effectiveness and justness of mandatory sentencing in a current climate that preaches reform. In Florida, the unintended consequences of mandatory minimum gun laws seem to outweigh its merits as a father is sent to prison for 20 years for “defending his family.” While in Illinois, politicians carefully craft a tough-on-crime bill inspired by the death of a promising honor student that may offer relief to a community plagued by escalating gun violence.

Episode 3: Flawed Forensics
Premieres Sunday June 1st at 9E/6P
Check the schedule for local times and repeat airings

Nearly 20 years later, the fates of two men are still entangled in the FBI’s faulty hair analysis from all those years ago. Both men were found guilty of multiple murders and now one is on the outside, recently released and waiting for a retrial, while the other, after coming within hours of actual execution, is hoping that long-awaited DNA testing will finally prove his innocence.

Episode 4: Eyewitness Identification
Premieres Sunday June 8th at 9E/6P
Check the schedule for local times and repeat airings

In this episode, we’ll explore how the system is grappling with emerging insights into eyewitness science. In Dallas, a man is convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. The prosecutors relied on eyewitness testimony to convict him. In New Orleans, another man sits in prison convicted of murdering his best friend during a botched armed robbery in 1985. There was no physical evidence tying the suspect to the scene, but two eyewitnesses picked the suspect out of a six-pack photo lineup – a practice that has now been discredited.

Episode 5: Parole: High Risks, High Stakes
Premieres Sunday June 15th at 9E/6P
Check the schedule for local times and repeat airings

Always controversial, the role of parole boards have again been called into question in recent years, and swift policy changes have followed. In this episode, we will examine the changing face of parole in Massachusetts and Connecticut and look at a few of the countless lives touched by these gatekeepers of justice: one man’s controversial journey through the Massachusetts department of corrections and another in Connecticut whose future will be decided with help from a new risk assessment tool.

Episode 6: Juvenile Justice
Premieres Sunday June 22nd at 9E/6P
Check the schedule for local times and repeat airings

In this episode we take a look at the issue of juvenile sentencing, and consider two compelling cases in Michigan that raise the question of whether children convicted of murder should be subjected to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A battle is now waging to decide how to sentence juvenile killers, and what to do with the more than 360 juvenile lifers already sentenced to die in the state's prisons. 

Episode 7: Geography of Punishment
Premieres Sunday June 29th at 9E/6P
Check the schedule for local times and repeat airings

Crime rates of previous decades continue to have a large impact on how the criminal justice system functions today. Proactive policing strategies such as “drug-free zone” laws and “stop-and frisk” were implemented with the best of intentions, but critics say they are not working, and are in fact causing more hardship – for the community and the state’s taxpayers – filling up prisons and infringing on civil rights. What can be done to repair the public’s trust in the system?

Episode 8: Prosecutorial Misconduct
Premieres Sunday July 6th at 9E/6P
Check the schedule for local times and repeat airings

The 6th amendment to the US Constitution guarantees every American the right to a speedy and public trial before an impartial jury, and the right to a defense attorney.  What the 6th amendment doesn’t lay out are rules for law enforcement and prosecution. In this episode, we will highlight two cases: the ongoing efforts of parolee Derrick Hamilton to clear his name after twenty years for a murder conviction fraught with alleged police and prosecutorial misconduct and another in Queens that seems to have the earmarks of prosecutorial misconduct but is not yet proven.

More shows on Al Jazeera America

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Al Jazeera America Presents

Sunday 10pm ET/7pm PT

This weekly show brings viewers feature documentaries and original series from acclaimed filmmakers around the globe.

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Mon-Thurs 10pm ET/7pm PT

Consider This is a current affairs program dedicated to challenging the status quo. With host Antonio Mora.

America Tonight

Mon-Fri 9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT

The network's flagship show, America Tonight tells urgent, important and underreported stories with quality and depth.